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Author Topic: Ideas for beekeeping software  (Read 1191 times)
inmind
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« on: February 04, 2009, 06:46:36 AM »

Hi fellow beekeepers.

I'm starting to develop a software for an easier management of hives, bees and everything related. I have lots of ideas on a to-do list, but I know not all of them will be useful.

Besides the basic information logging functionality, what do you think about these:
- Integration with palm, pocket pc, or some mobile device. The software on this devices need to be thumb friendly (we all know how messy field work can get). Perhaps voice commands is a nice idea also.
- Multimedia logging. For example, taking a picture of the queen every time we check our hive, so we can actually see her evolution.

Do you have any ideas? What would your ideal beekeeping software have?
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julque
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2009, 07:17:15 AM »

May be some heat, humidity, wind sensors? I think those could be useful. Think about this, i could know the status of the hives remotely, in realtime, and may be it could send an alert when this conditions change.

It's only an idea....
« Last Edit: February 04, 2009, 07:42:50 AM by julque » Logged
BMAC
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2009, 07:52:58 AM »

You know this is a fabulous idea.  I too considering creating some software for Palms, but considering that I tend to kill cell phones while working the bees due to the high heat, humidity, my perspiration, resting heavy boxes on them I always felt we actually need reliable hardware before we can fully utilize any software to help us manage our colonies. 


We would really need to mark the levels of humidity, temps, wind (theoretically this would be automatic on sensors mounted on your vehicle, to be taken at every yard to include time of day).

Then a barcode could be placed on each colony so you could just quickly scan the barcode and start dictating the condition of the colony.  Lets face it at 100 degrees F with a bulky propolis filled gloves you dont really wanna mess with trying to manage those touch button key boards on the screens.

While we are this far you need to make sure that the Palm unit is GPS enabled so you can track the number of colonies per yard and ensure nobody walked off with any.  So this would be a new report based off of the findings each time to look for missing barcodes. 

Also you will want to setup and track multiple barcodes so we all have the inventory of all our frames, boxes, lids, bottom boards, pallets, etc......  Most likely this needs to be incorporated with a peripheral that can create your barcodes for you.  Sort of like the ones the US military uses.  Those are rugged barcodes.

Of course the number of reports are endless and obviously much of the reports will be trend based reports.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2009, 08:25:42 AM »

When I ran a company for someone else, and was looking for a sales manager, it was always hard to find a good one. The person wanting the job would talk about marketing plans, new fancy advertising, a better way of this, or a better way of that. It was rare to find a person who understood0d that the bread and butter way still getting down in the trenches, working the nuts and bolts, and at the end of the day, if needed, bring the sales in himself, if the sales crew was behind. Finding a great marketing director was not the goal, as they were a dime a dozen. a true salesman, and someone to fit the sale managers position, was much harder to do.

What I am saying, is that all the bells and whistles, and adding a bunch of stuff like humidity and temp, may be a bit much. If you need software for 10 hives, I don't see why. If you need software for 5,000 hives, and you might...then some things just are not going to matter anyways.

Define what information is needed, what is useful, and find a "NEED". Then tailor your product around filling that need.

Who will be buying software for hive management? Go ask them what would they like to see. Find out how you can create "VALUE" in your product, and which design features are needed by those beekeepers. And see if it is something they need, willing to buy, etc.

Like that sales manager sitting in the office thinking he was "creating" sales by this slick program, adding this report, and so on, it usually failed. Going out and spending time with the sales force, getting in the ditch, etc., had more results. I equate that to time doing much more productive things with bees, other than worrying about wind, humidity, and bar coding everything.

I kind of picture this whole software the same. Is knowing the wind on any particular day, having barcodes on my lids, or any other of the ideas thus far, going to make my bees more productive, make me more frugal, or make a difference at the end of the year? Or is this program going to be something one buys, uses a couple times, and it ends up in a closet.

Show me why your features beyond "being neat to track" will make a difference in my business. If you can not do that, it will not sell. Unless your giving it away.... grin  Throwing it in the closet will be much better if it was free. I wouldn't keep reminding myself how much I wasted if I had bought it.

Bottom line....IS THERE a NEED FOR SUCH a PROGRAM? Most good products defined a NEED, then tailored their product to that need. Each item suggested should be followed up with "Why is that needed?. And how would that "sell" to someone and how would it be beneficial in regards to productivity and the bottom line.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2009, 08:39:31 AM »

May be some heat, humidity, wind sensors? I think those could be useful. Think about this, i could know the status of the hives remotely, in realtime, and may be it could send an alert when this conditions change.

It's only an idea....

There is a company I think out of France that has sold in the past such a remote sensoring equipment. Other than the people they originally gave it to to test (of course they all loved it in the marketing writeup), I do not know of one person who uses such remote tracking software or equipment.
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inmind
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« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2009, 09:05:07 AM »

I understand your position, and it's true it's really easy to be carried away by developing bells and whistles. The main focus, just as you stated, is to add VALUE.

The core functionality of the software would be the treatment of information. I know many beekeepers who still use a journal or a custom made excel file, and the objective of the software would be the standarization of this information in order to be able to analyze the information in a more objective manner. This would have a direct consequence in maintenance tasks, production forecasts and even economic matters. This would be the real value.

I've also found out that there are some pieces of software made for this purpose. But all of them require a great amount of time to enter the information and after entering it, there is no real use for it besides keeping a historic log.

What I'm thinking is developing a software that has easy input methods, specially during field work. With an easy to enter and not time consuming way of entering information, I would save time compared to the journal, excel or desktop application methods.

The information to be logged is one of the most critical points, and it would probably depend on each region, type of production or even individual beekeepers (everyone has it's own quirks). It would need to reflect the whole process, from the purchase of equipment to the selling of honey. The owner, manager, or each employee involved in the process would be able to use the information to perform tasks more efficiently and make intelligent and informed decisions..

This is exactly the reason why I'm posting here, to learn from you, real beekeepers.
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Jessaboo
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2009, 04:20:03 PM »

As a backyard beekeeper (and hoping to expand a bit), I would def consider a software program that would keep all my beek stuff in one place. Right now I have a weather journal, an inspection journal, accounting on quicken, contacts and resources in the address book or bookmarked online, photos stored on the camera or computer, etc.

It would be really nice to be able to combine them all into one program AND have ease of functionality. I have actually been looking for something similar to what you are talking about for gardening.

I would suggest, further, that it have the ability to be stored online so that it could be accessed via computer and not just via a hand held device (like a google docs or wiki type storage). Then you could even have the ability to share the info with fellow beeks etc.

Good luck - can't wait to see what you come up with!

- Jess
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2009, 10:10:03 PM »

Somethings to consider for function:
1.  Hive notes on information observed during inspection of problems or pluses.
2.  Things like weather etc are a one time log for each inspection and applied to all data entered that day.
3.  Able to break data base up into sections for each bee yard.
4.  An alogrithym to track and compare the data to both hives within a yard and yard to yard and as a whole.
5.  Track costs and sales of all beekeeping related products.

Such a progran is useful to the hobbiest, sideliner, or commercial beekeeper because it can be expanded as needed.  It would be able to give the beekeeper a picture of how his bee business doing on a site by site as well as complete operation view.  For a sideliner or commercial beekeeper to determine if a bee yard is productive or should be moved or even if it holds too many hives.  An overview of pollination fees, honey production and sales, etc are all considerations.

It needs to be a business assessment tool as well as an inventory, cost, and income report tool.  A beekeeper should be able to input all the necessary information per yard in about 15 minutes or less.

With that in mind, try to keep it as simple as possible and still support the necessary information.  The analysis part is key part, to me, anything without it would not be useful, because without the analysis function it is just a log of events and inventory.
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inmind
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2009, 07:18:01 AM »

Thank you all for your comments. Your input really makes a difference in the development of this software. I took note of everything you said:

Ease of use
Cloud computing (google docs style)
Information input time (less than 15 minutes per yard)
The 5 items Brian stated.

The philosophy behind all the ideas is exactly what Brian stated
It needs to be a business assessment tool as well as an inventory, cost, and income report tool.
This actually creates VALUE for the beekeeper.

Also, another critical point:
The analysis part is key part, to me, anything without it would not be useful, because without the analysis function it is just a log of events and inventory.
For example, if the health of a queen is detected to be in decline for 3 consecutive inspections, then create a notification. Also the comparing yards tool you suggested could analyze the data to present useful results. I've got some more ideas also.

I already started developing parts of the software, and so far I like it. I'll keep you all updated about the progress! All your ideas are really welcomed, please continue posting them! You can contact me by all means, through this thread, personal message, email or even our company website.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2009, 08:23:35 AM »

In one of the bee mags, there is an item called the "Burke's Hive Minder" or something along those lines. It is a laminated sheet that pins to the side of the hive. It has information such as dates of last requeening, last inspection, etc. So when you go back to the yard, you will remember what you need to do as a followup action.

The problem I see, is that many times, the reason you didn't correct the hive in the first place, was that you didn't have the right part. And I know one yard I need to replace a bottom on one hive, and wouldn't you know it, I have gone there three times now, and have forgotten the bottom all three times.

So using something like the "Burke's Hive Minder", and marking the hive, and inputting the information into the program, would allow you to review the comments once back at the home base.

Just a random thought.
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